Hard Decisions Ahead: The Love of Writing Versus the Popularity Contest



Today is a day that I should stay off social media outlets. However, this is my blog…a place to reflect upon the world around me; a place to say what’s on my mind. To be frightfully -- and brutally -- honest, I'm not really sure that I'm not the only person reading my blog.

That being said, today is a day of genuine disappointment and disillusionment for me as a writer.

This week is a week that I no longer feel like participating in the entertainment industry.

For most of my life, I’ve enjoyed creative writing. Writing is entertaining to me, as well as emotionally therapeutic. In fact, writing is entertainment not only to me but to the reading public at large.

By contrast, being part of the entertainment industry is often depressing and disappointing. It is a ratings game – an environment where authors, performers, artists, singers, actors and actresses all vie for the attentions of an audience and the respect of their industry and peers. It is also a money machine, focused… no, more like obsessed…with sales, investments, profits, and returns. It is a grind of modern capitalism.

It is also a popularity contest; my least favorite aspect.

I frequently advise writers to ignore the Amazon rankings and sales charts when reflecting upon their own work; that the value of their art and creativity should not be relegated to where their works reside in numbered lists. However, this week I violated my own advice and perused the Amazon rankings for my own novels.

Suffice to say, I was sadly disappointed.  I’m definitely not winning any popularity contests with regard to my outstanding novels at the present time.

A sense of rejection quickly permeated my spirit. I felt dejected and disappointed.

It made me feel as if my writing wasn’t positively contributing to the body of published literature at large in the marketplace. It made me wonder if my own work was meritorious to readers.

Those negative feelings caused me to stop writing on my current projects, namely manuscripts for my second Logan Bringer novel and my fifth Sunset Vampire novel.

It’s important to understand that authors, just like any performers or artists, receive satisfaction in seeing their work actively viewed or digested by others. It is perhaps a reflection of our own vanity, though more often – and as is the case with me, I believe – it’s a reflection of seeking broader acceptance. It’s a matter of validation that my work is good enough for others.

For authors, it’s not solely a matter of sale for the purposes of income (though paying bills and putting food on the table is important to me), it’s more like those sales numbers indicate that other people find value in my creations.

It’s a mark of perceived worthiness…of being embraced socially. Certainly, people are social creatures, are we not? 

 I don’t like feeling depressed and disappointed. I’m generally a happy person. In the midst of my melancholy, I sought solace and inspiration anywhere that I could find it.

Then I remembered someone who has spoken to my heart since I first heard him as guest speaker at the May 2012 graduation ceremony at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Neil Gaiman.

Neil is the famous author of many award-winning novels, including the graphic novel, The Sandman. I often reflect on his momentous 2012 graduation speech, which you can view at http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012.

One of his many key reflections in his presentation included, "...when you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure. You need to be thick-skinned, to learn that not every project will survive. "

I genuinely needed to hear him say that to me.

It’s never easy seeing your creations being largely overlooked in the marketplace.

Neal also said, “A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.

Not everything we do as artists or writers will be accepted by the masses. It’s a harsh reality to confront and become comfortable with.

 I listened to the entire speech twice, in fact. His words were encouraging and soothing and somewhat reassuring.

 After a short time in silent reflection, I have decided that my own disappointment in the recent sales performance of my novels will not keep me from continuing my writing. At my core, my writing is intended for me as much as for others. It helps me work through things that are processing inside me, whether that's my imagination, or my emotions, or merely my assessments of life or the world at large.

That being said, publishing is a business, and if my novels don’t sell very well, it may not be fiscally possible for my future works to continue being published.

Even if my future works aren’t published, at least I’ll have my manuscripts for my own personal sense of accomplishment and reflection, including the satisfaction that comes from completing them in their entirety.

Of course, as an avid reader, no longer going through the grind of the publishing process and all of the work that it entails would leave me with more time for me to read what others have written. At the very least, I could help contribute to the satisfaction and support of other authors.

I’ll ponder on it further, I suppose.

Either way, I hope that your life will be fulfilled with a sense of satisfaction and acceptance.